Sunday, September 30, 2012

Grain Free Cream of Chicken or Mushroom Soup

Today I am having the family over to celebrate my oldest son's birthday and we are having one of his favorites for dinner, Chicken Divan.  Since I am the only wheat/grain free person in the house and this is his birthday...I am making it the "regular/traditional" way for them.

Chicken Divan is one of those family favorites that I have been planning on "revamping to wheat/grain free" for a while now and I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to try it out on a smaller scale...so I am making a separate small casserole for myself on the side.  Making it wheat/grain free involves two parts -- one, substituting the buttered bread crumbs with toasted, buttered almond flour to top it with; and two, coming up with a wheat/grain free cream of chicken soup to make the sauce with.

Since I had also been planning to try making wheat/grain free homemade cream of mushroom soup (to use in other casseroles like the green bean casserole I make at Thanksgiving) I figured I could kill hit two birds with one stone with this experiment (that is such an ugly saying...about killing birds and all).  I decided that since I am the only one eating my "test casserole recipe", I thought I would make it something that I really like (hence I made a wheat/grain free "cream of mushroom/chicken soup" combination (hubby doesn't like mushrooms and I love them).  I am really pleased with how it turned out too.  I made a small batch as the test run -- and it resulted in about 1-1/2 cups of creamed soup after reduction; plenty enough for my little casserole.  Check out the pics below as well as the easy-peasy recipe.  Enjoy!

Diced mushrooms are sauteed until most juices evaporate
Added the minced chicken
Liquids have been added and ready to start reducing
A close-up of the finished product

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Homemade Grain Free Bread

Today was a very busy day and I still have lots more to do before stopping for the night.  I'm having my oldest son's birthday dinner and party here tomorrow, so I have been busy shopping and cooking for that.  I am making chicken divan for tomorrow night's dinner and since I am the only wheat/grain free person that will be there, I am using this as an opportunity to make a separate small version for myself which will involve trying to make a wheat/grain free sauce substitution for my little casserole (I will substitute browned buttered almond flour for the bread crumb topping on mine and the rest will be the same; chicken, cheddar cheese and broccoli.  Once I conquer the sauce part, which I intend to do...I will post that recipe, hopefully tomorrow.  Once I get done with this post, I have a birthday cake to bake too...I may never get to bed tonight!

My big news today is that I finally tried the recipe for homemade grain free bread that I've been wanting to try.  It's made with coconut flour, eggs, raw organic cashew butter, apple cider vinegar, baking soda, sea salt and almond milk.  The recipe also called for the addition of honey which I omitted and substituted one teaspoon of Truvia for instead.  First of all, I want to say it actually "tastes" good...it's a bit dense, more like a quick bread (think banana bread without the nuts) and it is moist (in a good way).  It slices nicely into thin slices with a sharp knife.  I tried 2 small slices with butter with my dinner tonight (which was simply rotisserie chicken, since I ran out of time prepping for tomorrow's dinner) and I really enjoyed it.

Okay, so now you know that I was pleased with how the bread turned out, but...(you knew there was going to be a but) it was sort of a pain to make.  The recipe stated that you could use either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, so I decided to use my hand mixer instead of the KitchenAid. Blending the cashew butter with the raw egg yolks felt like a "Mission Impossible".  I felt like what I really needed was a "cement mixer" to blend it together.  The mixture crawled up my beaters towards the handheld piece because it was so thick and stiff.  This was another one of those recipes where there were a few bad words flying around...and a lot of "seriouslys???" as well.  If the cashew butter wasn't so darn expensive, I might have just thrown in the towel and thrown it away.  The recipe is not a bad recipe...it just isn't for the faint of heart and was more tedious than expected (and I am an experienced cook/baker).  It requires beating the egg whites separately until stiff, and then trying to fold them into a mixture that is as stiff as wet cement, maybe more so...and trying to get the light and fluffy to blend with stiff and sticky.  I finally got it together and in the oven and fully expected it to not to be any good...but I was pleasantly surprised by the final product.  This is not a cheap recipe to make either.  The specific organic raw cashew butter recommended for this recipe was $17.28 and this recipe uses 1 cup of it, which ends up being a bit more than 3/4 of the entire jar.  This means that you could not make 2 loaves from 1 jar of this cashew butter.  So, my final review was that yes, this bread tastes really good and I look forward to having some with my breakfast tomorrow.  But, not only is it a bit more difficult to make than the "norm" for baked goods, it is quite pricey to make as well.  While I would definitely make this bread again...it is definitely not something that I would want to do on a weekly or regular basis just to have bread.  Also, next time I will try my KitchenAid mixer.  Below are a couple pictures of the bread as well as a link to the recipe.  Enjoy!

Fresh out of the oven
BOOM!
Here is the link to the recipe for this bread.  I got it from the blog, "Against All Grain".  The only substitution I made was to replace the honey called for in the recipe with 1 teaspoon of Truvia instead.  Grain Free Sandwich Bread


Friday, September 28, 2012

Hungarian Style Chicken Paprikash

This evening I made Hungarian Style Chicken Paprikash. It was a quick and easy version that uses chunks of boneless chicken breast rather than the traditional whole cut up chicken (with skin and bones). Chicken Paprikash is essentially chicken simmered in broth with onions and lots of paprika, then mixed with sour cream. It is usually thickened with flour and cooked covered. This version does not use any flour, and instead is cooked in the oven, uncovered, until the sauce reduces and concentrates.

It's traditionally served over either wide egg noodles or spaetzel. Since I am not eating wheat or grains, I used my vegetable peeler to make wide ribbons of "zucchini pasta" that I briefly sauteed in a little olive oil and and then served the paprikash on top of the zucchini noodles. It was absolutely delicious. Hubby enjoyed his over egg noodles. One of my best friends growing up was Hungarian and she was always talking about having "chicken paprikash" or making it -- it's "comfort food" for Hungarians. Why it took me so long to try it (albeit a modified, short-cut version) I'll never know. I really wondered about adding that much paprika to anything...but it was really good. I even used the traditional "Hungarian paprika" made by Szeged for authenticity. Below are a few pictures for you to see as well as the recipe. Enjoy!

BOOM!
After sauce has been reduced in the oven -- waiting for sour cream to be stirred in
Sour cream has been stirred in and its ready to be served over noodles

Hungarian Style Chicken Paprikash

INGREDIENTS:

2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast or chicken thighs
1 cup chicken stock or broth
1 (14.5 oz) can diced fire roasted tomatoes with juice (or regular tomatoes)
1 medium onion, sliced or diced
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon more, as necessary
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons sweet Hungarian paprika (I used Szeged)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup sour cream (sit out while casserole bakes so it isn't cold when stirred in)
Zucchini or squash noodles (or substitute wide egg noodles if not wheat/grain free)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut chicken into approximate 1-inch sized chunks; pat dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium-high heat until hot. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned on all sides. Remove chicken to bowl and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the dutch oven chicken was cooked in and heat over medium-high heat; add onions to pan. Cook until soft and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add tomato paste and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute or so. Add chicken broth to de-glaze pan, stirring frequently and scraping bottom with a wooden spoon to loosen any bits. Add tomatoes, paprika and cayenne; stir and bring just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Return chicken back to dutch oven and stir in, along with any juices that accumulated in bowl. Bake uncovered for about 35-45 minutes or until chicken is tender and sauce has reduced by about 1/3. Remove from oven and let sit about 5-7 minutes, uncovered.  Stir sour cream thoroughly into the mixture.  Serve over noodles of your choice.

          

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Baby Kale & Spinach Salads w/ Grilled Chicken

This evening was another quick and easy meal to put together -- even quicker than last night's meal.  I made big main dish salads using a baby kale and spinach mix that I picked up this weekend.  I topped them with red and yellow cherry tomatoes and diced grilled chicken breast leftover from last night.  I also put together a quick and easy salad dressing to top them with.  I mixed 1/2 cup of sour cream with 1/2 cup of salsa and added a few dashes of roasted ground cumin, cayenne pepper and a few grinds of black pepper and tasted it until it was the combination I liked.  It tastes similar to a Mexican "thousand island" type of dressing.  This is another one of those meals that I love making because it transforms leftovers into a completely different meal that took probably 10 minutes to put together.  I snapped a few photos below for you to see.  Enjoy!

Voila!
Here's a closer peek
BOOM!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fresh Tomato Basil Grilled Chicken and Broccoli w/ Buttered "Bread Crumbs" & Parmesan

This evening I made "Fresh Tomato Basil Grilled Chicken".  It was so easy to make because I marinated the chicken breasts ahead of time and just needed to grill them when I got home from work.  The tomato basil topping is quick to put together as well and can easily be made ahead of time and refrigerated until ready to use.  I decided to make broccoli for our veggie but wanted to do something to "jazz it up a bit".  I still had almond Paleo Bread in my freezer, so I pulled out a couple of slices and toasted it several times until it was very crispy and then put it in my Magic Bullet for about 20-30 seconds and "poof" I had grain free bread crumbs!  I seasoned the bread crumbs with Italian seasoning, onion and garlic powder, salt and pepper and browned them in a little butter to use as a "topping" for the broccoli along with some shredded Parmesan cheese (you could substitute almond flour for the paleo bread crumbs).  It turned out really good and was quick and easy to make.  I snapped a few photos for you to see below as well as the recipes.  Enjoy!

Voila!

BOOM!

Fresh Tomato Basil Grilled Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

Chicken Marinade

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, marinated in the ingredients below
1/3 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or preferred type of vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Fresh Tomato Basil Topping 
1/2 cup red cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1/2 cup yellow cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
4 - 5 whole fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly (chiffonade)
Pinch sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Place chicken breasts in a large Ziploc-type bag and pound to an even thickness; add remaining marinade ingredients; seal bag tightly, removing as much air as possible.  Refrigerate and marinate at least 4 hours or overnight.  Note: To save time, instead of making your own marinade, you could substitute about 1/2 cup or more bottled Italian dressing (Newman's Own makes a decent one).

In a small bowl mix all topping ingredients together and set aside.  Grill chicken breasts until cooked completely through, about 4-5 minutes per side, depending on their thickness.  Serve grilled chicken topped with the fresh tomato basil mixture.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Broccoli w/ Buttered "Bread Crumbs" & Parmesan

INGREDIENTS:

3 cups fresh broccoli florets
2 tablespoons butter (divided into 2 1-tablespoon portions)
1/2 cup "Almond Paleo Bread" crumbs (approximately 1-2 slices, toasted and pulverized)
    (or substitute almond flour for the bread crumbs)
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Couple shakes of garlic powder
Couple shakes of onion powder
Sea salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper

DIRECTIONS:

Steam broccoli florets until tender (I place them in a glass covered pyrex dish with about 1/2 cup water and microwave for about 4-5 minutes).  Drain broccoli florets well and place in a bowl; add 1 tablespoon butter (or more if you prefer), salt and pepper to taste; mix until butter is melted.  

In a non-stick skillet, melt 1 tablespoon butter until hot and bubbly, add "bread crumbs", Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste, and cook for several minutes on medium-high until crumbs are crispy.  

Serve broccoli topped with shredded Parmesan and topped with seasoned "bread crumbs" (or serve in individual ramekins). 

*Note:  Almond flour, lightly browned in butter  and seasoned can be substituted for the almond Paleo Bread crumbs.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday's Pasta w/ Chicken & Mushrooms

Tonight we had a quick and simple dinner.  I diced boneless chicken breasts and sauteed them in a little olive oil and then added fresh sliced mushrooms and continued cooking until they were cooked and the liquid had evaporated.  I poured a jar of sauce (one of my favorites by DelGrosso) over the chicken and mushrooms, covered and let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  I used my Spirelli to make zucchini noodles that I quickly sauteed until they were done.  I served the sauce over the "pasta" and topped it with Parmigiano Reggiano.  It was a quick, easy and delicious meal that is perfect for those nights that you want something good but you either don't want to spend a lot of time cooking or just simply don't have the time.  I snapped a pic for you to see. Enjoy!

BOOM!
      

Monday, September 24, 2012

Stir-Fried Chicken w/ Almonds & Veggies

This evening I made a quick stir-fry for dinner.  The great thing about stir-fry is that they don't take long to cook...but, unfortunately the time you save cooking, you spend chopping instead!  It would be a perfect meal to prep in advance by having everything chopped and ready to go ahead of time so when you got home from work, all you did was stir-fry your meat and veggies.  This is not an exact recipe and you can add more or less as well as different veggies.  It's sort of a "throw as you go" kind of recipe.  The sauce is also good if you use peanut butter to thicken the sauce instead of the almond butter I used. I've included a pic below as well as a couple of paragraphs on how I made it.  Enjoy!

BOOM!

Stir-Fried Chicken w/ Almonds & Veggies

I diced 2 large boneless chicken breasts and set aside.  I put slivered almonds on a foil lined cookie sheet and turned the oven on to 350 and toasted them until browned (about 5-7 minutes) and set aside.  I then proceeded to dice, chop and mince my veggies.  I cut 2 big crowns of fresh broccoli into florets, sliced one carrot and then placed both in a glass covered pyrex dish with about 1 inch of water in the bottom to steam in the microwave towards the end of the cooking time (if you cook your veggies to early, they continue cooking and lose both their bright color and crispness).  I like my veggies crisp tender with a little bite to them.  

I then minced 2 large cloves of garlic, diced 1/4 of a large red pepper, sliced 2 green onions and set my veggies aside.  In a heated wok, I placed about 2 tablespoons of oil (coconut or light olive oil) and added the garlic and stir-fried a couple minutes on medium-high and then added the diced chicken and continued stir-frying until the chicken was completely snow white and cooked.  Next, I added the diced red pepper and green onions and stir-fried another minute or two.  At this point, I microwaved the broccoli and carrots to steam them for about 4-5 minutes (or until they are done to the tenderness you prefer).  

While they steamed, I pushed the mixture in my wok towards the outer edges to make a well in the center to make the sauce (there will be some cooking liquids from the chicken and veggies in the bottom of the wok that will be the base of your sauce).  I added about 4-5 tablespoons of almond butter to the well, and stirred until it melted into the juices; then added about 3-4 tablespoons tamari sauce (wheat free soy sauce), 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, and a few good shakes of cayenne.  I then began adding chicken broth about 1/4 cup at a time and stirring into the melted almond butter (I ended up adding about 3/4 of a cup, but you can adjust it to your preference).  

Taste your sauce for adjustments (you may need to add salt or more cayenne or if thinner than you like, add more almond butter; if thicker than you prefer, add more chicken broth.  Season the sauce until you have the taste you want and it begins to bubble and then toss it all around with the chicken mixture.  Add the cooked broccoli and carrots and toss everything together, adding additional salt or tamari if necessary.  Sometimes after you add the veggies, you that additional salt/seasoning needs to be added after adding so many additional unsalted and unseasoned steamed veggies.  When you have it tasting just the way you like it, serve sprinkled with toasted slivered almonds.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Lemon-Lime Marinated Chicken & Spicy Green Beans w/ Almonds

Today was such a beautiful day out.  After breakfast, hubby and I ran our errands for the week.  It was a gorgeous day to be outside.  This evening I prepared us a quick and simple dinner.  Youngest son was home for dinner.  We had Lemon-Lime Marinated Chicken and Spicy Fresh Green Beans w/ Almonds.  Hubby and youngest son also had brown rice with their meals.  The nice thing about making marinated chicken is that you can marinate it ahead of time, either earlier in the day or the night before and then just toss it on the grill and it is cooked in 15 minutes or less, depending on the thickness of your chicken.

The spicy green beans are also easy to do.  I washed and snapped the ends off of about 1 pound of fresh green beans and minced a couple cloves of fresh garlic.  I put a little olive oil in a wok and lightly stir fried the garlic and then added the green beans and about 1/4 cup of water, covered and let it steam for about 5 minutes (keep checking to make sure the water doesn't evaporate -- you do not want a lot of water as they are not supposed to boil and become water logged).  As the water cooks off, add a little at a time until the beans are close to the tenderness you prefer (I make them crisp tender, similar to Chinese style).  Once they are the tenderness you like, remove the lid and stir-fry until all the water is gone.  Stir in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil.  Season with salt and red pepper flakes, to taste.  We like it a little spicy.  Add toasted slivered almonds and toss.  I snapped a photo for you to see below as well as the recipe for the Lemon-Lime Marinade.  Enjoy!


BOOM!

Lemon-Lime Marinated Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

3-4 boneless chicken breasts, beaten to an even thickness
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or a little more)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon, or to taste)
2 tablespoons low sodium Tamari (similar to soy sauce which can also be used)

DIRECTIONS:

In a small bowl, whisk ingredients together; pour in a large Ziploc bag and add chicken and seal bag, removing as much air as possible.  Marinate for 4 hours or overnight.  Grill chicken approximately 5-6 minutes on each side, or until done. Remove to a plate or platter and cover with foil and let rest 5-10 minutes to retain juices.

Sunday Morning's Mexican Taco Omelet

Happy Sunday.  It's beautiful here today...bright, sunny and a nippy 58 degrees -- and an awesome welcome to fall.  This morning I made Mexican Taco Omelets for breakfast.  It was so easy to do since I used the leftover taco meat from Friday night's Taco Lettuce Wraps.  I added some diced cherry tomatoes, sliced green onions and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.  It was delicious and beautiful and will probably last us until dinner time.  Check out a couple pics below.  Enjoy!

Voila!
BOOM!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Spicy Chicken, Mushroom & Green Onion Pizza

This evening was pizza night.  I decided to "step out of my box" this evening.  Usually I stick to veggies for the most part on my pizza...simply by personal preference.  Even though I love chicken, the thought of it on pizza always makes me wince and shiver just a bit.  Kind of weird, huh?  I agree completely!  Tonight I had hubby grill some boneless chicken thighs (I just spray them with a little olive oil and sprinkle with Spicy Montreal Steak Seasoning, which is one of my faves) and grill them "naked".   Believe it or not, they don't stick and they don't burn.  The first time I tried that with boneless chicken breasts (because I had forgot to marinate them)...I thought, what the heck, let's see how they turn out...I was surprised at how good.  Anyway...I made my flax crust recipe for "one" which makes a thin crust 10" round pizza.  I spread a thin layer of DelGrosso pizza sauce on (it has no added sugar), then sprinkled on some shredded 6-blend Italian cheese, chunks of diced grilled spicy chicken thighs, sauteed sliced fresh mushrooms and some sliced green onions (also a first for me on pizza) and then topped it with diced cherry tomatoes after I pulled it out of the oven.  I have to tell you...it was amazing!  It sounds like an odd combination, but it really tasted good together.  Check out the pics below as well as the link to the pizza crust recipe for "one".  Enjoy!

BOOM!
Here is the link for the recipe:  Low Carb Pizza Crust Recipe for One

        


Friday, September 21, 2012

Taco Lettuce Wraps

This evening I made Taco Lettuce Wraps for dinner.  It was quick and easy to put together and absolutely delicious.  One of hubby's and my favorite things we used to eat at P.F. Chang's was their chicken lettuce wraps...so I knew these would be good too because we both love tacos as well.  I decided to put together my own taco seasoning.  I found a recipe that looked good, and then tweaked it to season it the way I like.  The best part about it was there was nothing in the seasoning mix that was an unidentifiable ingredient.  It was maybe a tad more than "medium" in terms of spiciness, but could easily be adjusted up or down to suit your taste.  I served them with diced avocados, cherry tomatoes, shredded sharp cheddar cheese, and sour cream.  Hubby added a little salsa to his too.  Check out the pictures below as well as the simple recipe that follows.  Enjoy!

VOILA!
Pretty & Tasty!
Here's a closer look...
BOOM!

TACO LETTUCE WRAPS

INGREDIENTS:

1 to 1.25 pounds of ground beef (I used ground sirloin)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Taco Seasoning:
    2 teaspoons chili powder
    1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon onion powder
    1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
    1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
    1/4 teaspoon paprika
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon sea salt
    1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup water
Lettuce leaves (iceberg, romaine, butter or your favorite)
Garnish/Toppings: avocado, sharp cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, sour cream, salsa

DIRECTIONS:

In a skillet or frying pan, brown ground beef in olive oil; drain, if desired.  Measure and blend all the taco seasoning spices together in a small bowl.  When beef is browned, add taco seasoning and mix well.  Add water (you can increase or decrease the amount) and mix well and let simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until almost all of the liquid has evaporated (15-20 minutes).  Simmering the meat in the water helps moisten the meat and keep it juicy.  Fill lettuce leaves with meat mixture and garnish as desired.


            

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Leftovers...This is as good as it gets (Chicken Pot Pie)!

This evening I have added a new "first" to my blog and actually posted my "leftovers"....yes LEFTOVERS...not leftovers that I have transformed into some other fabulous meal...just plain old leftovers...repeats...reruns... whatever you want to call them!  To some folks (hubby included)...leftovers have such a bad reputation.  To others (like me), it means not only getting to enjoy eating something you loved eating once before, again...but it also means you get a night off from cooking (win / win)!   Last night, I made a Chicken Pot Pie w/ Cheddar Herb Almond Crust that was absolutely delicious and we had plenty of it leftover for another meal.  I originally began to pop it into the microwave to reheat it for dinner this evening...but then realized that would "ruin" much of what I loved most about this recipe...the crispy/flaky/richness of the crust that would certainly be turned into some weird, mushy, doughy textured, pasty, non-crust like substance -- all courtesy of my microwave (and the desire to save a few minutes reheating it).  Surely it would also turn the tender chunks of perfectly cooked chicken breast into "rubbery eraser-like chunks".  I decided that at the cost of having it take 25 minutes or so to reheat it in the oven versus the 10-12 minutes to reheat it in the microwave that it simply wasn't worth it.  So, if you feel the same way about it that I do...preheat your oven to 350 degrees and place your casserole dish in the oven while the oven is cold and let it heat up along with your oven, with foil wrapped very loosely on top for about 20 minutes.  Then remove your foil and let it re-crisp in the oven uncovered for another 5 or 10 minutes....your mouth, stomach and tastebuds will thank you for it!  It was just as good, if not better tonight.  I am SO glad I didn't reheat it in the microwave!  Check out these leftovers...even hubby was in heaven with these tonight!  Enjoy!

Voila!
BOOM!

*Note:  You may want to let your casserole dish sit out on the counter about 20 minutes so it isn't icy cold when you place it into your cold oven that will become hot quickly...just to make sure you don't crack your dish from a quick change in temperature.

        

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Chicken Pot Pie w/ Cheddar Herb Almond Crust

This evening I decided to conquer chicken pot pie so I created "Chicken Pot Pie w/ Cheddar Herb Almond Crust".  I didn't follow any particular recipe, I just made it up as I went.  It didn't just turn out great...it turned out absolutely WONDERFUL!  Even though I made it up as I went, I kind of had an idea of what I wanted to do based on traditional chicken pot pies I've made in the past.  I boiled boneless chicken breasts and used all fresh veggies but you could make it more quickly if you used frozen veggies and leftover chicken instead of starting completely from scratch.  The part I worried about most was thickening the "sauce" since I am not using flour.  I decided to give xanthum gum a try for the first time and boy am I glad I did!  All it took was 1 teaspoon, added gradually, to give the sauce the consistency I was looking for along with the addition of 1/4 cup of half-n-half to add the richness I wanted.  The sauce looked thick, rich and gorgeous.  I seasoned it with salt & pepper until it tasted the way I liked it.  I made my pot pie with only a top crust which is how I have always made them.  I had already planned to use an almond flour based crust but wanted it to have a little more flavor, so I added sharp cheddar cheese, Italian seasoning, sea salt and black pepper to the basic almond crust recipe.  This kicked it up a notch and made it more savory.  I can now scratch chicken pot pie off my wheat and grain free bucket list!  :-)  I am so excited to share this "comfort food recipe" with you and hope that you enjoy it just as much as we did.  I've snapped a few photos below for you to see as well as my recipe.  Enjoy!

Voila!
Fresh out of the oven
Take a peek inside
BOOM!
Check out how thick and rich the sauce is
This is what it looked like before going in the oven
Here is one more "before being baked" shot for perspective

Chicken Pot Pie w/ Cheddar Herb Almond Crust

INGREDIENTS:

Filling
2 cups diced cooked chicken breast
2 cups chicken broth (plus extra to use as necessary to adjust sauce thickness)
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1 stalk celery, finely diced
1/2 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 carrots, sliced thinly
1 cup fresh green beans cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup half-n-half
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt & Pepper, to taste  
1 teaspoon xanthum gum (to be added gradually)

Crust
2 cups almond flour
3 tablespoons "cold" butter, diced
1 egg (or 1/4 cup Egg Beaters)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1/2 - 1 teaspoon pepper, or to taste

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Lightly spray/grease a 1-1/2 quart casserole dish and set aside.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter and saute celery and onion until tender; add chicken broth, carrots, green beans; cover and simmer until carrots and green beans are tender.  Add parsley, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.  Bring broth and veggie mixture to a light boil/simmer while stirring in the xanthum gum 1/2 teaspoon at a time, whisking vigorously until well blended.  Sprinkle the next 1/2 teaspoon xanthum gum a little bit at a time, whisking until the broth begins to thicken.  Once it has reached the thickness you like, add the half-n-half and stir well.  Check seasoning (salt and pepper) and make any necessary adjustments.  Add chicken to the sauce and mix well.  Simmer on low for a few minutes to just to keep hot.  

In a medium bowl, add all crust ingredients and cut in with a pastry cutter until crumbly and all flour is moistened and cheese is pulverized into the mixture. Press dough together in a ball and place on a sheet of parchment paper and flatten out lightly into a circle shape (or the shape of the top of your casserole); cover with another piece of parchment paper and roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness to the size of your casserole dish.  Handle the dough minimally with your hands (you don't want to heat up or melt the butter in the dough, you want it to remain stiff).  Once dough is rolled out evenly and the size of your casserole dish, pour hot filling mixture into casserole dish.  Gently and carefully lift the dough and move it on top of the filling in the casserole (it is important to choose the right size casserole so your filling will be within an inch or so of the top when filled and the crust will fit and lay nicely on top).  If it cracks a little, gently press it back together.  You can use any leftover scraps of dough that you have left to build a crust around the edge of your casserole dish.  Put chicken pot pie in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes; lower oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake an additional 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown and done (you can tell by touching the top of the crust). 

        

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

This evening I decided to make Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Roasted Brussel Sprouts for dinner.  I modified a recipe that uses bread crumbs to top the chicken and instead I substituted "buttered almond crumbs".  It was an easy recipe to put together.  For those of you that have never tried roasted brussel sprouts...you should.  They are a completely different "veggie" when you roast them as opposed to boil or steam them.  Roasting them gives them a sort of toasty/smoky/nutty flavor that is hard to describe.  You simply cut them in half, toss with olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper and roast in a single layer in the oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until golden and done.  The little loose leaves that fall off and get dark are like potato chips and the best part...don't throw them out.  I took a few photos below to share as well as the super simple recipe I put together.  Enjoy!

Voila!

BOOM!

Parmesan Crusted Chicken

INGREDIENTS:

2 large boneless chicken breasts (split in half lengthwise) or 4 chicken breast cutlets
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I used an olive oil based mayo)
3 rounded (heaped) tablespoons Parmesan cheese, shredded (I used Parmigiano Reggiano)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
Dash cayenne pepper
1/4 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon butter
Parmesan cheese, finely grated (to shake on chicken before baking)
Italian seasoning, (to sprinkle on chicken before baking)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a baking sheet with foil (I used non-stick) or parchment paper.  Place your chicken breasts on the pan.  In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, shredded Parmesan cheese, black pepper and cayenne pepper until well blended.  In a small non-stick skillet, melt butter and turn heat up to medium-high, add almond flour and stir frequently until it absorbs the butter and is lightly golden brown; be careful not to burn.  The crumbs will be a little clumpy, but that's okay.  

Spread or brush mayonnaise cheese mixture on the top of each chicken breast.  Spoon the buttered almond crumbs on top.  Lightly sprinkle each chicken breast with the finely grated Parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning.  Place in oven and bake 20 minutes or until golden brown and chicken is done (juices will be clear).

        

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday's Pesto Roasted Salmon & Roasted Asparagus

This evening I decided to make salmon for dinner.  Since it has been drizzling on and off this afternoon, I decided not to grill it and instead make my Pesto Roasted Wild Salmon along with Roasted Asparagus since both can be done in the oven.  I also made a quick sauteed medley of fresh yellow squash, zucchini and diced cherry tomatoes in a little bit of olive oil, seasoned with some salt, pepper and dill.  Both hubby and youngest son also had brown rice with their meal.  It was an easy dinner to put together.  Since I've already posted the Pesto Roasted Salmon recipe before, I will provide a link to take you to the recipe.

The roasted asparagus is very simple to make. Place the rinsed and drained fresh asparagus spears on a foil lined cookie sheet; drizzle with olive oil and season with fresh cracked black pepper and sea salt.  Toss with your hands until all the spears are lightly coated.  Spread the spears out in a single layer and pop them into a 400 degree oven and roast for about 20 minutes (more or less time depending on how thick or thin your spears are).  You may have to toss them around once during the cooking process.  Once they are lightly colored and the tenderness you like, remove them from the oven.  If they are slightly undercooked and you are afraid of them drying out or the tips burning, loosely wrap the foil around them after removing from the oven and they will continue to steam a bit.  In the summer time, we like to cook them on the grill in a grill pan. Here is the link for the Pesto Roasted Salmon:  Pesto Roasted Salmon Recipe   Below are a few pics.  Enjoy!    

Ready to be popped into the oven

BOOM!

This is the kind of pesto I use -- it is one of my favorites.  


Sunday's Olé Omelet Brunch

This morning it's bright and sunny out with rain in our forecast for later today.  I decided it would be a great morning for an Olé Omelet for brunch.  I filled them with diced poblano peppers, red bell peppers, onions and jalapeno peppers along with some diced cheddar cheese.  I even threw in a few diced cherry tomatoes at the end.  I have never put jalapenos in my omelet before, but I received a few from the coworker that shared the eggplants from his garden with me on Friday...so I thought what the heck -- I'll give it a try.  I only used 1/2 of the jalapeno "just in case".  I have to say, it turned out absolutely delicious.  I sauteed all the veggies in a little olive oil until tender and it was an interesting mix of flavors; the mild heat of the poblanos, the sweetness of the red bell peppers and onions, and the moderate heat of the jalapeno (that was blunted somewhat by cooking).  It was a great and colorful way to start the day!  Olé!  Check out the photos below.  Enjoy!

Voila!
This is how it all began...
Right before the fold-over
BOOM!
Happy Sunday!


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Greek Style Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken (Spaniko-chicken)

Today I was thinking about how I missed having Spanikopita (Greek spinach pies) that I used to make -- a mixture of spinach, feta and other herbs and seasonings sandwiched between multiple layers of flaky phyllo pastry.  What I really missed wasn't the phyllo but the taste of the spinach and feta filling.  So, while out shopping today, I decided to make a similar Spanikopita filling and rather than sandwich it between layers of phyllo pastry (made with wheat), that instead I would roll it in chicken breast cutlets and bake them.  When I got home, I began making the spinach-cheese filling and then remembered I still had an extra little baggie full of the seasoned almond flour crumbs in the fridge from a couple nights ago when I made the Chicken Parmesan.  So, after stuffing and rolling up the chicken cutlets, I made a quick little egg-wash and dunked them in it and then rolled them in the remaining seasoned almond flour crumbs -- I literally had just enough left!  I will say that, the cutlets were a little tricky (messy) to fill and roll up, but not at all difficult to do.  I secured them with toothpicks and little bamboo skewers to hold them together while they baked.  They turned out delicious and were beautiful when plated.  All of a sudden, I wasn't missing Spanikopita any more!  Hubby really liked them a lot too.  I snapped a few pics below of our meal as well as the recipe that I put together.  Enjoy!

Voila!
Spinach & cheese filling
Stuffed, breaded, drizzled and ready to pop in the oven
BOOM!

Greek Style Spinach & Feta Stuffed Chicken (Spaniko-chicken)

INGREDIENTS:

Filling
1 6-oz bag fresh baby spinach leaves
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf (Italian) parsley, chopped
2-3 green onions (spring onions), sliced
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest (about 1 lemon's zest)
3 oz feta cheese crumbled (I buy it in 6-oz containers and use half; feel free to add more)
1/3 cup diced fresh mozzarella, optional (for the melty/stretchy/not too salty quality)
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Dash nutmeg
Dash garlic powder
Olive oil (for sauteing)

Other Ingredients
6 Chicken Breast Cutlets (about 1-1/4 lbs)
Seasoned almond flour for coating (3/4 - 1 cup)
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with splash of half-n-half, salt and pepper)
Paprika (for sprinkling on after cooking)

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium-high non-stick skillet, put a drizzle of olive oil and quickly wilt the spinach leaves; remove to a mesh strainer and press as much liquid out as possible; place in a medium bowl and set aside to cool.  Add another drizzle of olive oil to the skillet and lightly saute the green onion for a couple minutes and remove from heat.  Take the cooled, well drained spinach and put on a cutting board and chop well; add back to bowl along with the parsley, cooked green onions, lemon zest, feta, mozzarella, and the remainder of the seasonings and mix well.

Lay chicken cutlets out on a cutting board or work area and divide the filling evenly between the cutlets, placing mixture in the center of the cutlet and roll up lengthwise as tightly as possible; secure with bamboo skewers or toothpicks to keep from unrolling while cooking.  Dredge the stuffed chicken bundles in the egg wash and then roll in the seasoned almond flour crumbs and place on a foil lined baking pan that has been heavily coated with olive oil.  Lightly drizzle the tops of the breaded cutlets with olive oil.  Bake at 375 F degrees for 20-25 minutes.  If more browning is desired, briefly run under the broiler for a few minutes.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with paprika for color.  Let cool about 5-10 minutes to allow cheeses to set; carefully remove all toothpicks and skewers; slice and serve.  Serves 3-4.